fashion designer

Eline and I met 2005 on a car pool ride to our new school when we were both 18. What we admire most about her is her kind way of treating those around her and always trusting herself in a very modest way. We love her persistence, her incredible strength while going into this crazy world of fashion and that she rocks all the ups and downs of it.  

Eline studied fashion design at Artez in Arnheim and has worked for Sonia Rykiel, Balenciaga and Maison Martin Margiela among others. She is part Dutch, part German and lives in Paris. Eline on Instagram.

How did you get into Balenciaga?
Thanks to the right contacts. Usually after an excellent education and first practical experiences everything is about the right contacts and people you know. I was able to forward my application to a friend of a friend who works at Balenciaga for years.

Sounds smooth.
It’s not. I wrote emails to Balenciaga for three months every week. Only after those three months I got a response with an invite. To get a position within the very first two years after college and  internships you need a tremendous amount of patience and persistence.

How important is it to believe in yourself while working in the business?
It’s essential! As long as you are sure of where you are going you will find the necessary energy. If you have big dreams, you will have to develop a forceful nature. Many people will tell you, it’s will be too tough, or you won’t make it. If you really, really want it, you will make it. Every obstacle is really a step forward.

How do you celebrate failures?
Doubts as well as defeats are more than welcome. If you feel doubts, they invite you to think again and focus really on what you want to do and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Failures are brutal, but they do open your eyes to what else is there; to what you may not see yet. Retaliation is essentials for growth. Seek failure, because only if you know your borders you can overcome them. All successful people have taken a lot of defeats or step backs. What makes them different is that they never gave up, they kept going. My academy had a lovely saying: Ever failed? No matter. Fail again. Fail better.

Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

What did you give up for your profession?
A lot of free time, tons of sleep and lots of security especially in the first few years the financial security. While I was studying I had nights where I did not sleep at all, especially before big presentations. At good days I used to work until midnight. Right before the presentation we still work until midnight and in the last week before it’s usually until 3 o’clock in the morning – it’s doable for a short amount of time. After a while I noticed, 3 o’clock is my limit. If I don’t stop then I most likely become sick.

What do you love about the fashion the business?
Haha, the list is long… I truly love the materials which I work with. I adore how I can communicate with the material and when I lead it as well as when it leads me there are endless possibilities emerge. I love being surrounded by people that do the profession as passionately as I am and who inspire and support me.

Any moments you hate in the fashion business?
Hate is a strong word, but I can truly say that I hate it whenever the work of designers is not appreciated enough or not at all, if they are underpaid and being taken advantage of. I hate it how the appreciation or the value, their status and salaries are disproportionally divided.

How glamourous is it really to live in Paris?
I have the huge privilege to be part of this luxurious world – even though I am on a small budget. In the city center obviously, everything is incredibly gorgeous – everywhere you go you find palaces, the most lavish restaurants and stores and then on the next corner you find a homeless person. From time to time I get to go to super luxurious events, in the most lavish dresses and I get to enjoy drinks and charming chauffeurs while the city is shining in its legendary romantic glory. I enjoy that a lot. And on other days I have to count if I have enough money in my bank account for food and rent.

What do you eat when there is not enough money?
Couscous with a little bit of veggies, sunflower seed and olive oil – my go to dish if it’s super tight.

How do you handle pressure?
I think the most important thing today is that because of dealing with so much pressure, we need to learn again to not only identify ourselves over our jobs. We cannot define our personality form from success which is a whole new topic but to have other interests like friends, family and appreciate live in general is vital. And: meditation!

How well did your education in Arnheim prep you really for the world out there?
Very well – even though there is room for improvement. I studied fashion design at one of the best schools in Europe. They offer a broad variety of courses regarding creative and technical skills. Here they are super amazing. The school puts a lot of pressure on you – similar like in the business later. That’s how I learned to deal with high pressure especially at the beginning when entering the business. What’s missing is the direct contact to the working world. Many alumni are working for the big houses in fashion, the academy does not stay in touch. A better exchange between us would make it easier to get started.

My education in three words:
Pressure. Growth. Euphoria.

Your tip for everyone wanting to enter the fashion biz?
Find an excellent college! There are so many fashion education programs out there which do not give you what you need in daily work life later. Don’t limit yourself to schools only within your comfort zone. The fashion world will get you into the big cities. Support each other because you will need each other to balance the immense pressure you will experience. Sticking together is essential and it will make it memorable. 

Don’t expect that things just come to you naturally. They simply don’t.

Your tips for after college education?
You always have to start at the bottom! How many interesting things you get to do and are able to try, and how many chance you are given to, it all depends on yourself and how open you are towards things. Don’t expect that things just come to you naturally. Show your motivation – every day and take on less interesting tasks with a smile. Is no one challenging you, do your own research and tasks independently and show the designers what you did.

What was your biggest wake-up call so far?
Realizing how many internships you have to do until you even get a small chance to get a job.

Do women get treated differently than men in fashion?
I wouldn’t say treated differently. Unfortunately, also in fashion women have a harder time getting a job. Here the cute, gay men are super popular.

Who really has a chance in the fashion world?
The one that keeps going and persists. No matter what’s coming. If I have a certain goal or dream, I work as much as I possibly can to reach it. This is the mind set one needs.

Together the sky is the limit.

How do women support each other in the fashion world?
The luxury fashion segment is very small and exclusive world. So, there is only a very few houses and very few openings. Most of the open positions are not even advertised anywhere, mostly they are awarded to someone internally or to a contact. So you need each other but that’s why most are super careful and protective with contacts and their knowledge. In my experience 50 percent of the young ones help each other out a lot. Everyone realizes and knows that we need each other in order to achieve something. Together the sky is the limit.

- T

© Quentin Chambard  Bois